I’m in the business of helping organizations work smarter. What does that mean?
Our industrial and information age is nearing an end as we transition into an era where creativity becomes the most important element in our economy. We are also living in a more complex time as traditional disciplines blur and as information explodes. For the developed world, that means the future does not lie in doing manual or simple work because much of it will be automated. Merely complicated work, which is most of the work done in traditional industrial or office jobs, is being outsourced to the cheapest source of labour. That leaves complex work, requiring initiative, creativity and passion.
How does this affect our daily lives?
First of all, look at the restructuring that is happening in our economy. Jobs are being shed that will never be replaced. Can your work be done remotely by someone who doesn’t cost as much? Then at some point in the near future, it will. Companies are finally realizing that they need to work smarter. That means automating and outsourcing where necessary (if they don’t, their competition will) and then figuring out how to get things done in complexity.
The core of working smarter in complexity is the integration of learning and working. It sounds easy, but it’s not. There are two major parts to this. At the individual level it requires people to think critically and embed sense-making processes into their work and their lives. This takes skill and practice. It also takes a work environment that supports and encourages individual learning, sharing, and collaboration.
Hierarchy is the enemy of creativity but we still need some structure to get things done. As Vera John-Steiner writes in Creative Collaboration; “…the achievement of productive collaboration requires sustained time and effort. It requires the shaping of a shared language, the pleasures and risks of honest dialogue, and the search for a common ground.” The risks of honest dialogue will be a major barrier for many organizations to transition to more creative work.
Successful organizations will need to:
1. support creative collaboration (not merely team work)
2. support each person in developing critical thinking skills
3. put this together in order to get things done
There is no specific recipe to do this. Every organization and business will have to find its own path. However, that path will not include:
- standard job competencies; job descriptions & JOBS;
- one-size-fits-all instruction;
- equating time to value;
- and many other vestiges of the industrial era.